Dr. Keith Kantor spoke with the Chattanooga Times about healthy eating choices and how restaurants will be affected by the new rules of Obamacare. Now that calories must be shown on many menus, portion sizes are decreasing. Is this to save money, and is this a good thing?
Why do you think portion sizes got so big in the first place?
I believe it was just a marketing idea at the beginning. Customers felt like they were getting a good deal and came back to the restaurant plus told friends. This increased business and since food only accounts for 25%-35% of the operating cost, it also increased profits. In most cases the less expensive items were what was increased in size (starches, vegetables etc.). Therefore the food costs and overall costs did not increase that much as a percentage. Over time customers became use to the larger portions and it became the norm, thus continues to this day.
Why are restaurants downsizing portion sizes? Is it really just to follow Obama’s guidelines, or are they disguising this as a way to save money?
The guidelines do not take effect until 2014 and they are not for smaller portions. The guidelines simply say that restaurants with over 20 stores must show the calorie content of the meals they sell. This may have been the stimulus for some chains to have smaller portions and thus lower calorie counts but the trend had already started. Consumers are slowly moving to healthier foods, all-natural foods and a healthier lifestyle. Smaller portions and a lower calorie intake are part of this trend. You will also notice other healthy trends are starting to take hold, like gluten free menu’s, low sodium entrees etc. that have nothing to be with the new government guidelines. As far as restaurants making extra profits with smaller portions, that is true but remember food costs only comprise 25%-35% of the overall costs so that is not the main reason. The real reason is they saw a demand for healthier menus and smaller portions and it has proven to increase business.
If people won’t get as much food, why won’t they be paying less?
As I said before, food only makes up 25%-35% of the overall expenses of a restaurant and while they will go down some with the smaller portions, the other expenses remain the same or go up. The small savings are being kept by the restaurants to cover other expenses, pay for healthier food and extra profits but extra profits are not the big reason, extra business generated by the new twist,” healthier food with lower calories” is the reason.
Will this help the obesity epidemic?
Anything that has people eating healthier foods with lower calories will have a positive effect on the obesity epidemic. People have to be educated on why living a healthy lifestyle, with proper nutrition and fitness, will improve their quality of life, increase their longevity, and lower their incidence of sickness and disease. This is becoming more commonplace with the increase of nutritional wellness benefits companies that are working with employers across the country. The one that I helped to found is Green Box Foods (www.greenboxfoods.com) and the results and workplace acceptance has been great. This overall trend towards a healthier lifestyle will have an impact on the obesity epidemic and smaller portions are a step in the right direction.
Yours For Good Health,
Dr. Keith Kantor
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